People in this part of Italy speak German and prefer beer over wine.
For many years Alto Adige and, to a lesser extent, other regions of Northern Italy at the foothills of the Alps were the only places in the country making world-class white wines. Historically, the wines were superior because the area is cool enough to keep fermentation temperature down, which preserved the fruit character. In warmer regions of Italy, the fermentation roared at high temperatures and the fruit character was cooked off, leaving a thin, acidic wine. With new technology and investment in jacketed tanks that control fermentation, all Italian wine regions, right down to Sicily, have the ability to make very good white wines.
Even with more competition, Alto Adige remains a leading white wine region.
Italy has a significant claim to pinot grigio, known as pinot gris in Alsace and as grauburgunder in Germany. I’m not a fan of many Italian pinot grigios, but those from Alto Adige are different and better than most.
Tiefenbrunner is a big name in Alto Adige and Trentino, just to the south. Tiefenbrunner 2012 Pinot Grigio is sourced from a broader region known as a Dolomiti — the Dolomite Mountains that are part of the Alps.
But this entry-level wine is lovely. The wine smells of acacia blossoms; tastes of honey, Granny Smith apple and subtle lemon; and has minerality giving it softer finish. If you think you know pinot grigio, try this one. $11. â â â â 1/2
Sylvaner is a German variety, the key wine in the under-appreciated Franken region. Abbazia di Novacella, an abbey that dates to 1142 when it housed pilgrims traveling from Europe to the Holy Land, is renowned for its white wines. Its 2012 Sylvaner comes in a shoulderless bottle known as a «hock» associated with Germany that typically contains riesling. The wine is not as good as the abbey’s story. The wine has some lemon and mineral flavors, is drinkable and would match easily with a range of foods. Yet, it lacks complexity. While not bad, it’s just boring. Special Order Pennsylvania. $23. â â â
The Trentino wine region is just to the south of Alto Adige, known for producing some of the best apples in the world. Pennsylvania has so few Alto Adige wine, that wine from Trentino may be easier to find. Bottega Vinaia 2011 Pinot Grigio is on the fruity side, with ripe apple and pear character. Not very acidic, this is more of a cocktail wine for drinking by itself. $14. â â â â
Pinot Blanc is another Alto Adige/Alsace/Germany crossover, an interesting white no matter where it comes from. Cantina Terlano Vorberg 2010 Pinot Bianco offers a the sort of complexity you want to dive into, with a melon, peach and quince, floral character wrapping up with a slight caramel finish. This is a great wine for fall dishes. Some past vintages in Pennsylvania. $28. â â â â 1/2